Opinion: The prime minister’s insistence on keeping Naftali Bennett confined to the sidelines while he favors the ultra-Orthodox politicians, who care only for their own sector, is proof that the dependency on him must end

Yamina leader and outgoing defense minister Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Yamina leader and outgoing defense minister Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“Yamina is demanding jobs that have nothing to do with religious Zionism,” said the Likud in response to the right-wing party’s decision to join the opposition, apparently over the paucity of portfolios on offer in the new government.

This is what an encounter between patron and supplicant looks like, and illustrates Benjamin Netanyahu’s view of the religious Zionist parties that have backed him through every one of the three recent rounds of elections.

According to Netanyahu, the members of the religious Zionist sector, which connects the Torah to work and religion to nationalism, should not dabble in overarching issues.

Who should then? United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman, who sat in the Health Ministry for the past decade? Shas leader Aryeh Deri, jailed for activities while he previously headed the Interior Ministry only to be restored to his former position by Netanyahu and then investigated yet again?

To the ultra-Orthodox, Netanyahu has repeatedly handed over important portfolios, be it religion or state, along with hundreds of millions of shekels.

To Netanyahu, it’s Litzman or Deri who should be responsible for tackling national crises and for leading the country, even though they prove time and again that they care only for the cares of the sector that sent them (namely, money and the ultra-Orthodox draft).

 יעקב ליצמן ואריה דרעי בהצהרה על הקורונה
Haredi leaders Aryeh Deri and Yaakov Litzman: answerable only to their own electorate (Photo: Shaul Golan)


But who is told they should not overstep their place, who is told to stay small and submissive? It is the religious Zionist population, the ones who represent all facets of society, who volunteer en masse, who enlist in the most dangerous units of the IDF and lead in all areas of society, economy and law.

Apparently it is they who need to sit quietly as the ultra-Orthodox take the wheel.

While Netanyahu negotiates with Labor and gives its representatives influential portfolios, his loyalists from Yamina hardly merit a single conversation.

They watch as Religious Zionist ideology is stripped from the law and economy and are told to deal with settling the Negev.

Had the religious Zionists wised up and met with Blue & White leader Benny Gantz on election night in September 2019 (is Netanyahu the only one allowed to negotiate with them?) and agreed to form a coalition, they would have received all the influence and portfolios their hearts desired.

They would have received the justice, education and defense ministries, not to mention control over national service, religious colleges and matters pertaining to religion and state, finally prying them out of the hands of the ultra-Orthodox.

Had they acted, things would look different today.

The representatives of the religious Zionists hold the lion’s share of the blame, starting with their automatic support for Netanyahu.

But – and it is a big but – they are still the most professional, honest and successful ministers around, each worth a thousand of their counterparts in Likud, Shas and UTJ.

איילת שקד
Former justice minister Ayelet Shaked (Photo: Avi Moalem)


It is enough to see the changes made by Ayelet Shaked during her time as justice minister in an area long neglected by the Likud, not to mention being the first to lead the move toward sovereignty over the West Bank.

Let us also not forget Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s creative and responsible actions during the coronavirus crisis or the pace at which Bezalel Smotrich led the Transportation Ministry.

One thing should be clear to all religious Zionists and their elected officials: The automatic dependency on and commitment to Netanyahu must end.

Sitting in his pocket was never especially pleasant, and now more than ever, there is no reason to stay there.

As reported by Ynetnews